Ah, martini glasses: so angular and sexy, so prone to making me look like a drunk as I struggle to keep a generously poured beverage within their confines. The traditional wide bowl, delicate stem, and sharply sloping sides are meant to enhance the botanical aromas of the gin, keep the drink frosty-cold, and provide a comfortable wall for a cocktail pick to lean against, respectively—but in practice, all those features feel like bugs for clumsy-fingered folk like me. So I sought out a design that wrapped up those attributes in a more user-friendly package, and discovered this lovely set of glasses. The broad mouth remains, but the conical shape has been softened and the stem fattened (which, if I'm being honest, will make me all the more inclined to actually use that stem instead of clutching the bowl for dear life). Got no space for uni-tasking glassware? These double nicely as pretty dessert dishes.
I don't often recommend single-function items, but for the cocktail enthusiast, a couple of julep cups really are fun to have. There's nothing like holding that metal cup frosted with ice on a blisteringly hot summer day—glass just doesn't pull the effect off in the same way. If the recipient doesn't have an ice crusher, check out my Lewis bag suggestion as well.
For years, I thought citrus presses were overhyped, absurdly specific, rarely useful, space-consuming, money-wasting gadgets. But it took only one use to see just how wrong I'd been—not only does a citrus press guarantee that you'll get way more juice out of every lemon and lime you squeeze, but you can say good-bye to stinging papercuts and all those infuriating attempts at pinching slippery stray seeds from your salad dressings and cocktails.
Calling all lovers of bittersweet drinks! In flavor, Barolo Chinato is somewhere between vermouth and amaro, but the best chinati are more delicious than either of those. Even the fanciest vermouths are usually made with a basic, cheap white wine, but the base for Barolo Chinato is certified DOCG Barolo wine—that is, 100% Nebbiolo from the Barolo region in Piedmont, which is then mixed with an infusion of herbs, spices, and bittering agents. We love this one from Cappellano.
Enter all the bottles you have at home when you start, and the app will tell you all of the drinks you can make, with recipes straight from New York's famous PDT cocktail lounge. You can also search for drinks of a certain type or cocktails created by a specific bartender, and save favorites for making again. (To give an app as a gift, look for the arrow to the right of the "buy" icon.)
Coffee geeks will have a lot of fun with this coffee scale. It pairs with a smartphone through Bluetooth, and an accompanying app helps walk you through the brewing processes, like pourover and French press, calculating bean-to-water ratios and brew times. It can handle customization, so with each successive batch, you can really dial in on the variables to make the cup that tastes best to you. It can also be used as a basic kitchen scale with a maximum weight of two kilograms (about four and a half pounds), so it's versatile beyond its primary purpose.
A premixed 2:1 rye-vermouth Manhattan with a few dashes of bitters, this stuff spends three months aging in used rye barrels, which integrates the flavors and adds a touch of woody character to the drink. Give it a quick stir over ice for chill and dilution, spray an orange twist on top, and you've got a drink worthy of any cocktail bar—no barrel required.
Thanks to a few simple innovations in the filter and beaker design, this French press fixes some of the brewing device's biggest drawbacks. The result is a cleaner batch of coffee that won't accidentally over-steep.
Coffee and tea just feel more luxurious in this pretty handmade mug from Portland, Oregon's Mazama Wares. We love the satiny, soft-colored glazes and find the handle particularly comfortable. These mugs also stack nicely, thanks to an unfinished tapered section at the base of each mug.
This hand-blown and -etched mixing glass from Japan looks stunning on a bar cart and even better in action, whether you're stirring a Negroni, a Martini, or a Manhattan. Mixing glasses made from two parts joined together sometimes split at the seam, but this version, made in one piece with a beaker-like spout, can stand up to heavy use.
I don't really consider myself a lunch-bag person, but when I have something cold to transport, there's only one carrying case I reach for. These PackIt cooler bags come in a variety of sizes and styles, and all of them can be collapsed and chilled in the freezer overnight to provide refrigerator-level temperatures for a 12-hour period. I use mine most for bringing beers to the park or beach, or transporting raw meat to barbecues and campsites.
Do you know someone who's getting into tea? Like, really into tea? This is the tea set to get for that person. It comes with a traditional Chinese brewing vessel (a gaiwan), a decanter, four tasting cups, and a beautiful wood tea tray with a rack to store all the pieces. At $120, it's not cheap, but it's a bargain compared to other well-made tea sets, especially when you consider the high-quality, paper-thin porcelain. For tea lovers looking to dig into tea ceremonies, this set has everything you need.
This isn't your standard hot cocoa. It's a rich drinking-chocolate mix, made from organic, 74% cacao single-plantation chocolate from the Dominican Republic and 68% cacao wild-harvested chocolate from Bolivia. Whisk the ground chocolate with warm milk for an intense cocoa experience: It's silky and deep, with hints of orange zest, cinnamon, and juicy berries, tempered by a subtly bitter edge.
If you know someone who has a taste for a well-made cocktail, but lives far from the heart of the Brooklyn drinking scene, this book is the perfect gift. It features 300 innovative and classic drink recipes from the best bars of the borough; every cocktail we've tried from it so far has been killer. The drinks Carey Jones has selected aren't dumbed down at all, but, for the most part, you're not looking at mile-long ingredient lists, either.
For those who find Scotch too smoky, bourbon too sweet, and rye too spicy, Irish whiskey is the ideal gift. Redbreast emerges from the barrels complex and substantial; some of the whiskey is aged in sherry casks, lending it a weight and dark hue, while some is aged in bourbon casks, imparting characteristic vanilla flavors. There's a hint of fruit up front and spice on the finish.
Sure, you can serve crushed-ice cocktails in a regular old glass, but these shiny pineapple-shaped tumblers really up the ante and make a tiki party feel special.
I never knew how much I'd appreciate having a soda-maker at home until I got one. I'm a fizz fiend, and that used to mean sugary sodas. Now it means sparkling water any time I want it. For an extra $50, you can upgrade to the Power Source, which allows you to choose your carbonation level at the touch of a button.
Drinking Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum—with its dark caramel and vanilla on first whiff, and its rich and velvety-smooth feel as you sip—is like drinking a crème brûlée, but with a long, dry finish. Add an ice cube if you must, but it's really worth it to give it a try without first.
If you like your whiskey with a giant ice cube, then you'll really be into Mammoth Cubes—unlike ice cube trays from current competitor brands, these make eight cubes (not six) and are actually stackable, so they don't require a section unto themselves in your freezer.
Dave Arnold (you might know of his bar, Booker and Dax in NYC) won't just accept the common assumptions about cocktail technique—his mission in this excellent book is to dig into the science of how the very best drinks are made. This is a must-read for inquisitive types who like to host cocktail hour at home.
Punt e Mes is both bitter and sweet, like a rich bottled vermouth cocktail that'll please lovers of Italian amari. It's delicious stuff, wonderful chilled on its own and fantastic with Cynar, lemon, salt, and orange bitters in this cocktail. If your favorite drinker hasn't tried it, make the introduction.
If you're following my advice to buy someone julep cups, you might as well go all the way and grab a canvas Lewis bag as well: It's used to smash ice into a fine powder with a mallet. Unless, of course, the person you're buying for already has an ice crusher.
If you want to start making legit espresso at home, this machine from Breville is a great investment. We like that it has a built-in burr grinder that will stay set at whatever dosage you've decided is best for your shot, as well as an adjustable pre-infusion time. Getting the hang of it—and dialing in—takes a while, but ultimately, the results are impressive.
My good friend and former Food & Wine coworker, Kristin Donnelly, runs this awesome lip balm company called Stewart & Claire with her husband, Phil. Every lip balm she makes uses great ingredients that you wouldn't hesitate to smear all over your mouth, but even cooler are the scents she comes up with, many of them inspired by foods and cocktails. Recently she teamed up with the talented folks at Death & Co, a great NYC cocktail bar, to develop three limited-edition scents. I've been walking around with "Smoky" in my back pocket for the past couple of months: It's inspired by the smoky scent of Scotch and mezcal cocktails, using smoked olive oil, along with citrus and spice notes, to achieve that effect. It's like a mezcal Negroni or Rob Roy for your lips, but subtle enough to sit under your nose all day.
Anyone who appreciates Scotch (or good spirits in general) will embrace Nikka's exquisite whiskies. The Taketsuru Pure Malt is named for the company's founder, who studied in Scotland before bringing whisky distilling back to Japan. This bottling has a slight fruity character, with lingering sherry on the finish.
This remarkable book, from Martin and Rebecca Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler’s Cove, traces the birth and evolution of exotic drinks and tiki bars—bars that embodied an American escapist fantasy. A lively exploration of our country's drinking history (and the current tiki scene), it's essential reading for rum lovers, offering the best categorization we've encountered of the head-spinningly diverse spirit. The mai tai recipe is great, too.
Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring. This book will appeal to full-on cocktail fanatics and newbies alike; there's something delicious on every page.
This is the electric kettle of my coffee-delayed dreams. It has an elegant gooseneck spout that makes pouring a thin, controlled stream easy (very helpful for Chemex and other pourover coffee methods), and a base with controls that allow you to set a specific temperature and hold it there.